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Anita Jalil’s Video, And The Rising Number Of Sexual Harassment Cases In Balochistan

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Ayaz Khan highlights the sexual harassment cases that have jolted the public conscience in Balochistan but have failed to wake the authorities up.

It’s Anita Jalil’s third attempt to end her life. Anita is a prominent Gwadar-based video blogger. She came to the limelight after starring in the film Baloch Abad. In a recently uploaded video massage on Twitter, Anita has painted a disgusting image of the society. Worth noting in her video message is the warning that she sends to her fellow Baloch women. Anita warns that the Baloch women should not enter in any profession, including the film industry, because no place is safe enough for them.

Anita Jalil has registered a First Information Report (FIR) against artist Sarfraz Muhammad and an employee of Gwadar passport office. Former is a well-known Gwadar-based actor who has worked in some famous Balochi films. Social media is discussing the harassment allegations on the prominent actor by his female colleague.

The incident is alarming. Anita’s case has surfaced only days after the University of Balochistan harassment scandal came to the fore. Both cases have ripped through the social fabric of the Baloch society. Women in Balochistan have come to face growing objectification over the last few years. These sexual harassment cases are only two of the many that are either not reported or fail to get the attention of the public.

Balochistan’s film industry is going to be hit really hard as the environment for women keeps growing insecure within the industry. Films and dramas can be essential in fighting stereotypes. From the media perspective, Anita’s case could dent the emerging film industry of Balochistan. Ironically, the film Baloch Abad is based on the concept of women empowerment; however, the case has brought the credibility of the entire film industry into question.

For women, the increasing number of sexual harassment cases in Balochistan has a three-dimensional impact – social, economic and political. We often see men chasing school/college-going girls and other harassment cases taking place in private and government institutions. These are common occurrences in our society and with each such incident, space shrinks further for the women. Living in a tribal society, where patriarchy plays a central role in managing socio-economic and political affairs, women are hardly ever allowed to play their due role in society. According to data shared by the World Bank in its 2018 report on the participation of women in the labour force, Balochistan faces the worst gender gap among all the provinces of Pakistan.

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Finally, the inadequate laws against sexual harassment at workplaces have been the primary cause of the increase in harassment cases. The recent case of sexual harassment at the University of Balochistan is a glaring example of weak laws failing to bring the culprits accused in harassment cases to justice. All the alleged culprits in UoB harassment case are still at large. The inquiry committee which was formed to look into the case has failed to reach a conclusion. How would you convince the people to believe in the rule of law with such a poor track record of the legal institutions?

Analysing why Balochistan lags behind other provinces, one critical factor that comes to the fore is the lack of academic research in the field of media, especially on the portrayal of women in Balochi dramas and films. And since there is no research available on the subject, we simply cannot analyse the impact of these dramas on society.

 

Anita Jalil’s case is just another one in the long list of sexual harassment cases that have emerged in recent months in Balochistan. The UoB case may not have been taken seriously by the authorities but it has helped create awareness in the society. The provincial legislators must wake up to the need for a comprehensive law to prevent sexual harassment from taking place and protecting the victims of sexual abuse.

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